One of Canada's most widely read weather news sources is closing its desk dedicated to climate reporting and laying off some staff who worked there, Canada's National Observer has learned. The Weather Network is one of Canadians' most popular sources for weather information, with nearly 58.8 million visits to the company's webpages in the past month alone.
Nana Banerjee, CEO of the network's parent company Pelmorex, confirmed in an emailed statement that it has "integrated the standalone climate business with our main weather coverage to increase visibility for these stories. While a few roles were affected by the change in strategic emphasis and mainstreaming of climate stories," Pelmorex is "providing support, including options to relocate within the company" to laid-off employees.
The closure comes as the world faces a summer of unprecedented heat and wildfires that scientists say are fuelled by the climate crisis — even as experts warn weather outlets have an "important" role to play in highlighting that link to Canadians.
"Weather people are among the most trusted conveyors of information about climate change," said University of Victoria journalism professor Sean Holman. As such, their words can have an outsized impact on people's understanding of the crisis and subsequent support for policies and measures to reduce emissions.
Despite the climate crisis's increasingly obvious impact on people's daily lives through extreme weather, Holman said the volume of Canadian reporting on the issue has remained relatively stagnant in recent years. That trend is poised to get worse as news media, which thrive on novelty, focus less on the problem as the crisis becomes "more integrated" into daily life, he added.
Weather reporting plays a vital role in staving off this apathy by bridging the gap between global or national climate events or policies and people's lived experience of these events. It "localizes climate change," transforming it from a "future-tense problem to a small-scale problem we can wrap our minds around," he said.
Still, he noted The Weather Network's decision to integrate climate reporting into its wider coverage could help address the issue more comprehensively. As the crisis deepens, climate reporting will become increasingly "indistinguishable" from other topics — including weather — because of the scale of its impact.
If the company's decision pushes its overall reporting in a direction that helps viewers understand this context and its relation to their weather forecast, its decision to close the climate desk "might make sense," he said.
In a statement to Canada's National Observer, Banerjee — the Pelmorex CEO — noted that "climate reporting has and continues to play an important role in our editorial coverage. We will be covering climate stories within our mainstream coverage as it links to our unique weather storytelling. Stories around major weather events will continue to have a climate component."